Nevada Budget Held Hostage by Tea Party

It is widely known that the Nevada state budget is in poor shape.  There is some public dispute about just how bad it really is (3.5 billion vs. 1.5 billion), but the truth is that our school districts and higher education system are facing tremendous obstacles in funding themselves, even just at current capacity.

More people are going to college, that’s a fact.  Some of that is because of the down economy.  People are re-tooling.  This is part of the key to the long term economic growth of the state and also to solving the budget issues.  Even associate degree recipients earn a substantial amount more that those with high school diplomas.  More Nevadans with more income is the goal.

So naturally, state leaders should be inclined to support the growth of college attendance, right?  College of Southern Nevada President, Dr. Michael Richards, says they can’t keep up with enrollment.  Why in the world is the talk of the town the eminent cutting of the higher education budget?  Why are we having this nightmarish conversation when a solid majority of people and politicians believe in the value of education and even the tax increases to support it?  This can only be possible because the whole system is being held hostage by a very small minority.

It’s a small minority because only 1 in 10 polled in Nevada say they are willing to cut higher education.  Only 1 in 20 said they would support cutting k-12.  This is what baffles the mind.  How is it that WE THE PEOPLE aren’t in charge of our state government?

Unfortunately, politics isn’t governed by sanity or rational thought, let alone popular thought.  It’s governed by power and movement.  The Tea-Party has some unusual and unwarranted power because of the contradiction between what people believe it represents versus what it really is.  Most people are not able to express what it stands for, though many of those same people claim to identify with it.  It certainly represents discontent.  The problem here is many discontented people identify with the movement for that reason, not realizing the much larger discontent they would have with the implementation of actual Tea Party policy.

This confusion is giving undue power to this very small minority who is now running away drunk with said power.  What is even more sad and pathetic is the belief of Tea Party leaders that they have some sort of mandate from the people to transform the system into their image of extreme conservative government.  They think their crazy fringe-right beliefs have now, all of a sudden, become mainstream.

So far, this new power has been very effective for the fringe-right.  The recent ouster of Nevada State Senator Bill Raggio as minority leader by the steaming Tea Party sect, over Raggio’s endorsement of Reid and recent votes for tax increases, is just one example.  It’s a very telling example.  They’ve taken control of the Republican Party, which is normally capable of dialogue and rational discussion.  Dialogue and rational discussion is expressly prohibited by the Tea Party platform.  Ironically, many of the discontented Americans identifying with the Tea Party are sick of the bitter divide in politics.  Their votes of discontent were not a mandate against discussion and bi-partisanship, though that is exactly what they are getting.  America’s romance story with the Tea Party has a very limited life span in this author’s assessment, for this very reason.

Many main-stream Republicans lost in primary battles to Tea Party candidates this election cycle.  The Republicans soon found out that many of those candidates were too extreme and unelectable.  Nonetheless, the effect has changed the posture of the Republican Party, and thus the margin of hope for compromise in both Nevada and in the Federal government.  It’s politics.  Now, even mainstream Republicans THINK they have to kowtow to extreme right principals or else get ousted.

This is nowhere more true than here in Nevada.  The Republicans only gained one seat in the Senate and two in the Assembly.  Still, the truth is that the Legislature became a lot more conservative than it was before.  Even moderate Democrats in swing districts are worried and affected by this.  The chance of mainstream legislation (funding education) has been dramatically reduced by this phenomenon.

In the final analysis, the large majority of sane thinking members of our state legislature believe one way (the same way most Nevadans do), but are being held hostage by a tiny majority of hardliner ideologues on the far right because of the “discontent” voting of 2010.  If discontent and the Tea Party lead to gridlock, perhaps the Coffee Party now has a chance.

Justin McAffee
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